As Australia’s Olyroos booked their place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games over the weekend, three players with strong ties to Queensland football were among the 22-man squad.
Australia’s Under 23 side qualified with a 1-0 victory in the must-win AFC U-23 Championship third place play-off against Uzbekistan, having lost only one game throughout the whole qualification process.
Brisbane-born Aiden O’Neill, and former long-term Brisbane Roar players Connor O’Toole and Nicholas D’Agostino were a part of the green and gold squad that achieved Olympic qualification for the first time in twelve years.
O’Neill – who has made nine appearances in this season’s Hyundai A-League competition for the Brisbane Roar – represented the Olyroos having previously turned down approaches from both the Football Association of Ireland and the Irish Football Association due to his Irish heritage.
Departing Roar player O’Toole, and recently departed D’Agostino are no strangers to the Brisbane Roar themselves, boasting an impressive nine years with the club collectively – an impressive feat considering both players are still only 21-years-old.
D’Agostino – who also played for Brisbane Roar’s Youth team in the NPL Queensland competition – proved vital in Hong Kong, scoring the only goal in the highly contested match against Uzbekistan on Saturday.
Football Federation Australia (FFA) Chairman Chris Nikou, and Chief Executive Officer James Johnson congratulated the U-23 men’s national team for securing a place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Nikou said Football Federation Australia (FFA) and the Australian football community are proud of the achievements of the squad and staff in Thailand, with the success adding another element to what is shaping as a huge 2020 for the game.
“Everyone involved with football in Australia ought to be immensely proud of the achievements of our under 23s this month,” Nikou said.
“The players, coaches and staff represented the nation with distinction, securing three wins and two draws from their six matches to finish a very commendable third in the tournament.
“The efforts produced and outcomes achieved by our players and staff in trying conditions with matches coming thick and fast means that Australia can once again look forward to watching the green and gold participate in the men’s football competition at the Olympics.
“With the continuation of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ qualifiers throughout 2020, Australia’s historic participation in the Copa America, forthcoming women’s Olympic qualifiers, and now qualification for men’s football in Tokyo, 2020 is shaping as an enormous year for our national teams with much to look forward to for everyone connected with the game.”
New FFA CEO Johnson attended the match in Bangkok and said he was proud of the way Graham Arnold’s side showed resilience and courage against a determined Uzbekistan team.
“What impressed me most about this achievement was the manner in which the team played,” Johnson said.
“In difficult conditions and against a very good Uzbekistan side, our team was resilient, courageous, and came together to achieve an historic result for football in Australia.
“While my time in Thailand was brief, I enjoyed the opportunity to witness firsthand how much qualification meant to the players, coaches, and staff.
“Over the coming days, weeks and months I look forward to the opportunity to speak with a range of the game’s key stakeholders, including our national team coaches, to consider ways that we can work collaboratively to ensure that these players, and those that will come after them, are provided with enhanced development opportunities in Australia.
“Our game’s key stakeholders must be aligned to ensure generations of talented players have the opportunity to excel individually and collectively.”
Words: Darren Newell